The Japanese occupation

The Japanese occupation of the Netherlands East Indies broke apart the existing colonial relations. Japan wanted to lead a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Most Indonesians initially supported the Japanese, until conditions deteriorated in the course of the war. The Japanese forced millions of Indonesian men to work as romushas (forced labourers).

In January 1942, the Japanese army invaded the Netherlands East Indies. The Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger, or KNIL) surrendered on 8 March 1942. The Japanese kept Europeans separate from the Asian population in prisoner of war camps and civilian camps; Indo-Europeans had to join the Indonesian population, due to their Asian origins. Indo-Europeans remained outside the camps on Java, but they were interned on the other islands.